Being the best we can be

This past Saturday was the memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was also the day of my nephew’s Baptism and the day I became a godmother. Godparents have always been such special people in my life. Not only role models of the faith, but role models for how to lead a truly good life, my godparents and those of others around me have lived up to the responsibilities bestowed on them when selected as such. 

The Gospel reading on Saturday was from Luke, recounting the time that Jesus stayed behind at the temple in Jerusalem, while His parents returned to Nazareth, unknowingly, without Him, after the Passover feast. The Gospel concludes, as such, “After three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard Him were astounded at His understanding and His answers. 

When His parents saw Him, they were astonished, and His mother said to Him, ‘Son, why have You done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for You with great anxiety.’ And He said to them, ‘Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?’ But they did not understand what He said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and His mother kept all these things in her heart.” 

Just as this encounter stayed within Mary’s heart, so too did the words of the Gospel stay within mine as the Mass continued into the Baptism service. As my sister and brother-in-law accepted the responsibility of training my nephew in the practice of the faith, of bringing him up to keep God’s Commandments, and to love God and those around us, I was struck with the responsibility I would have as a godparent. I, too, would be responsible for those things, for helping my sister and brother-in-law as they sought to nurture the faith formation of my nephew. 

But I also couldn’t help thinking of the words of the Gospel, and how relevant they were to the Baptism at hand. Upon first thought, one might think that training someone in the faith simply means encouraging going to church, being present for future Sacramental moments, and teaching hard lessons of morality and sacrifice — particularly through our own modeling of those behaviors. 

But when we look at the words of the Gospel and think about what it means to be models of the faith, I think we should also encourage our new faithful to follow the lead of Jesus in Jerusalem. Sure, upon first glance, it looks as if Jesus was disobeying Mary and Joseph when He didn’t travel back to Nazareth with them. He gave them quite a scare that I’m sure any parent would have identified with and when they came for Him, He didn’t exactly apologize.

However, when I give it more thought, He was doing what many of us don’t — asking questions of our teachers and truly engaging with them. How often do we blindly follow our faith? How often do we get angry because we are challenged to live a certain way, follow certain traditions, and we distance ourselves from our religion because we feel it causes us more heartache than hope? How often do we doubt and question, but refuse to reach out to those who will work through those moments with us? As I consider how I want to help raise my nephew in this faith, I hope I’ll encourage him to follow the example of Jesus, Who truly engaged with those in Jerusalem. I will encourage him to ask questions when he doesn’t understand something. 

I will guide him to those priests and religious who will educate him and work with him through the more challenging moments. I will tell him to read, to ask, to learn so that he can more fully live a life that he is proud of and one that follows Jesus’ example. Godparent or not, I encourage you who read this to do the same for those in your life looking for a model of faith. Be examples of the life Christ lived, so that those around you know it is possible and strive to do the same. 

Anchor columnist Renee Bernier graduated from Stonehill College and is a graduate student in the College Student Personnel Program at James Madison University in Harrison, Va.

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